Cyclopaths

DSDHA has been awarded a two-year Research Fellowship in the Built Environment by the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851. With the support of the fellowship grant, DSDHA are exploring the notion of 'The Beautiful Everyday Journey’, with the aim to make cycling a more pleasurable, exciting and accessible mode of transport.
Love them or hate them, cyclists are radically changing London’s public space and the experience of moving through it. As more and more of them whizz past the lines of cars that roll into the centre, it is clear that, on short trips through the inner city, they are sometimes faster than any other means of transportation. But is this change entirely for the better? Is cycling effectively improving London’s public space? 

Beyond the documented logistical, health, environmental and social benefits that cycling brings, we are aware that in many places conflicts arise as new and the old road users compete for space on the street. If pedestrians and drivers have always used separate zones, cyclists usually have to share their lane with one of these other two groups. Mainly because of the different speeds of motion, and radically distinct experience of each mode of travelling, this sharing doesn’t always seem to work particularly well. 

Focusing on the notion of ‘The Beautiful Everyday Journey’, our ambition is that of making cyclists as well as pedestrians feel entitled and welcome to use the road, regardless of their age or ability. In particular we want cycling in London to become a more pleasurable, exciting and accessible mode of transport – rather than a specialism – one that is not in conflict with the other forms of transport. 

We believe that, in order to achieve this, it is necessary to carry out a deeper investigation of the nature of cycling (one which takes into account aspects of aesthetic, psychological and cultural nature) and understand what differentiates the experience of cycling in London from other urban realities. Such awareness we believe would help us generate a specific complementary design strategy for our Capital, to guide it in its shift away from the prominence of car use and the excessive emphasis on speed, whilst radically improving its public space.  

Our aim is to produce a design toolkit tailored to London’s specific characteristics. This would be a concise set of methodologies to map and evaluate the quality of journeys through the city and then elaborate a design response. 

Central to these methodologies will be a perspectival shift, from a bird-eye approach to planning (typically focused on infrastructural nodes and specific urban conditions), towards a more personal/intimate gaze. As such we propose to concentrate on the journeys – i.e. the visual and sensorial experience of the individual in motion across different neighbourhoods and the varying spatial conditions typical of London. 

At this stage we have started to conduct our analysis from the perspective of a variety of road users, cyclists and not, classifying them according to the pace at which they tend to engage with the city; under the assumption that different speeds of motion allow distinct modalities of interactions, both social and aesthetic, with the environment, and as such they determine very different journey experiences.
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